Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Victory gets away with 'The Hugo'

Everyone’s been talking about the Victory Challenge chase boat drop yesterday, or as Tom Ehman suggests in his BMW Oracle blog, the ‘Hugo Drop’ ('no strings attached and has to be picked up afterwards')...

The Hugo was a beautiful move (click here to see Pierre Orphanidis’s photo sequence), albeit done in panic by the Swedish foredeck crew who just plain ran out of time as the leeward mark approached at 12 knots. The mastman took a knife to the halyard and the whole thing fluttered gently to the surface, a spontaneous advert for the Corum watch brand emblazoned on the spinnaker.

Santiago Lange, the Argentinean Tornado Olympic medallist who does traveller for Victory Challenge, admitted: “Our arrival at the leeward gate didn’t go well. One minute from the layline there were two gybes to go. We had to make the decision to lose it but it is actually quicker to execute a good manoeuvre than to dump the spinnaker. For sure in the meeting today there will be a lot of questions about what went wrong.”

Certainly when SWE 96 crossed the finish line just 7 seconds ahead of the fast-closing ESP 97, Magnus Holmberg’s gesticulations (no, he wasn’t doing a Cutler) to his team mates at the front of the boat were not the gesticulations of a skipper delighted to have just won the race. The Swedish gybes were looking distinctly shaky at times, and the more the polished Spanish team through gybes at them, the more vulnerable the Swedes looked.

Just after the Hugo, the Spanish hoisted a red flag and, even though the big 490 square-metre Corum jellyfish didn’t get in their way, it was surprising they didn’t see it through with a protest that evening. Navigator Matt Wachowicz said: “It’s obvious that they did it for tactical reasons, they showed absolutely no intention of recovering it, they cut the lines and threw it over - and it’s not illegal.”

Actually Peter Isler from BMW Oracle reckons it is illegal, so it seems there is some confusion about this situation, but the Spanish probably didn’t see it through because it probably wouldn’t have got them anywhere. It’s only a few days ago since the Spanish protested Mascalzone over those naughty backstays, and so there is a risk the home team might start coming across as litigious moaning minnies.

Even so, with so much at stake – a place in the Semi Finals – you could have understood them trying it on. They’ll just have to hope that Victory don’t do the unthinkable, and beat Emirates Team New Zealand today.

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